The history of Batman on screen is an interesting one, with many various iterations of the character having appeared in various versions of the franchise. However, perhaps just as compelling as what we have seen in Batman movies is what we never got to see. For example, Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) had a pitch for a Batman: Year One movie at one point. And who did he want to play the Caped Crusader? Joaquin Phoenix.
Much has been made of Darren Aronofsky's Batman: Year One movie that never was over the years, but this is the first we've heard of the director wanting to cast Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role. Aronofsky made the reveal while speaking to Yahoo Movies in order to promote his new movie, Mother! Here's what he had to say about it.
"It's funny, I think we were just sort of out of time with our idea. I understood that [with] comics, there's room for all different types of titles, but I think Hollywood at that time was still in the Golden Age of comics, and they were still just doing the classic titles in classic ways. I think audiences now, they've seen enough comic films that they're game for that, so I think we were a little bit out of time for our idea. I always wanted Joaquin Phoenix for Batman."
As Darren Aronofsky points out, his vision for what he wanted a Batman movie to be was a little ahead of its time. His take was going to be loosely inspired by the highly-influential Batman: Year One storyline, which highlights the earliest days of the Dark Knight's career in Gotham City. The hope was for the movie to be R-rated and, as we now know, it would have possibly starred Joaquin Phoenix. That may sound crazy, but it isn't that crazy. Phoenix nearly signed on to play the lead in Doctor Strange for Marvel. So why not Batman?
Seeing Joaquin Phoenix play Batman in any movie would be interesting. But Darren Aronofsky was going to take some serious liberties with the source material. In the Batman: Year One movie, Bruce Wayne would have been screwed out of his vast family fortune and as a homeless, ex-billionaire, Bruce Wayne would have started his crime-fighting career with very few resources.
This Batman: Year One movie eventually fell apart and that paved the way for Christopher Nolan to come in with Christian Bale to make Batman Begins. That led us to The Dark Knight, which is still arguably the best comic book movie ever made. So it's hard to say we'd want to go back and change things. But if we could travel to some sort of alternate universe, much like the Elseworlds of DC Comics, where this movie got made, it would certainly be fascinating to see what an R-rated, Darren Aronofsky Batman movie starring Joaquin Phoenix would have looked like.